Here we go again. Again.
For the new folks welcome to your new addiction. For the already initiated – doesn’t it feel great to get the hoops back into your system?
Another Opening Night goes down in the books and the basketball universe did what the basketball universe does on Opening Night. That is, we overanalyze a trio of October regular season games while at the same time constantly reminding ourselves not to say anything that will sound stupid in about 10 days.
All the while we’re pivoting from theory to practice now that draft days have passed, which means it’s time to scrape together a loose game plan going forward. We’re going to set aside for today how to fix imbalances in your team or plan for the playoffs and go right to the best way for any owner to improve their team after the draft – and that’s the ol’ buy-and-sell.
This week and next week are critical weeks for the trading owner. Emotions about draft picks are always at their highest in the weeks right after the draft and in some cases the day after the draft, as owners look to get off of bad trends and climb onto good ones.
George Hill’s owners may have been wondering what they got themselves into last night. Hill, who was typically a calm and steady fantasy play last season – he disappeared. He scored seven points on just 2-of-8 shooting with two rebounds and no assists. Ouch.
The Pacers came out and tried to establish Paul George early, and Lance Stephenson stepped up with 19 points, five boards and seven assists, so when Hill couldn’t find the range the Pacers nicely sidestepped him and went with their other options.
Watching the game one might be tempted to think that Hill’s days as the primary ballhandler are numbered with George around. Somebody might look at backup point guard C.J. Watson’s 20 minutes and 5-2-3 popcorn stat line and start smelling quarterback controversy. Stephenson’s big night might lead somebody to believe that his emergence will stunt Hill’s production this season.
It’s pretty much cliché to talk about the fact that it’s just one game or it’s just one night, but the best lesson for fantasy owners here is that maybe not after one game, but after a handful of games folks start making evaluations and those will turn into trade offers and before you know it a fantasy season will be shaped by the carnage that follows.
Now is the time for you to start making your list of buy-lows and sell-highs. Your job right now is to not panic while looking for others that are doing just that.
Going back to Hill, in his first two games last season he was a mess. He opened with a reasonable enough eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with seven assists in an ugly win over the Raptors. The Pacers could barely initiate an offense that I remember writing about a lot back then. Hill wasn’t forcing the defense to guard him, and he was starting sets more than five feet above the 3-point line while constantly getting into trouble with the shot clock.
Following that the team lost to the basement-dwelling Bobcats and Hill dropped an eight-point, one-assist backbreaker onto owners. Just prior to that season one of the local writers had a poorly conceived hunch hit the newswires right around draft week, so the fantasy public was actually eye-balling D.J. Augustin as a threat to Hill’s role.
Two interesting things happened here. There was the early panic by some owners that caused them to sell Hill for whatever they could get and the ones that outright dropped him. That’s obviously way too reactive, but that’s what was out there.
It was what happened in the third game that serves as the best example of an early-season trading scenario. Hill and Co. found themselves in an ugly dog of a game against the Kings that set basketball back a couple hundred years. Indy had a 38-point quarter and Sacramento won the other three rounds, sending two teams that were both shooting less than 40 percent into two overtimes.
Hill’s final line was a biggie with 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in a whopping 45 minutes, but he hit just 7-of-17 FGs and once again the Pacers looked hopeless on offense.
Seeing this big, inflated double-overtime line for Hill with him and his teammates all struggling, it was a signal for owners to sell-high on a late-round draft pick that they didn’t have high expectations for in the first place. They were right about Hill’s production being a fluke; they just picked the wrong side of the equation and lost the bet.
Now what can we learn from this? Iit’s easy to preach elementary wisdom and tell you something you already know – not to overreact to the season’s first few games. We're looking well beyond that to find the pivotal point when owner sentiments solidify and you or your competition feel like you have a handle on a player's outlook. The hook point occurs when somebody believes it's time to hop on or off a bandwagon that sets the stage for the early-season trade scenario.
If you ARE that owner or you’re going to do a deal with that owner, it’s time to drop what you’re doing and really think about the players at hand. Ask yourself what their teams may have been trying to accomplish in those first games.
In Indy, the Pacers are probably just trying to establish their No. 1 player first after a summer and fall of working on a system that revolves around George. In this respect, they’re building the foundation before they start to build upward and outward. Go back and look at the film and see exactly how he was covered and what actually held him back. Did he appear injured? Go back and look at past game logs and find out that he and his teammates had a similar bad start the year before and totally redeemed themselves.
The point is that while this seems like common sense, there is also a common urge to want to let up after your team is drafted – especially if you log hours prepping for draft season like many of you do. But this isn’t the time to do it. Start setting your strategy now and really dig into the handful of guys you think you can start working deals for.
Somebody in your league is going to want to hop on or off a train. If your laser-like focus can drill down into the right answer better or faster than your opponent, all while under the fog of the season’s first two weeks, you’ve got yourself a season-changing proposition.
For breaking NBA news and information, click here to follow me on Twitter.
THE WESTBROOK OUTLOOK
Russell Westbrook owners were treated to some great news last night, as it was reported that he could return from his cleanup surgery in the next two weeks. That sound you hear is owners with a fourth round betting ticket cashing in their chips.
It’s conceivable that this is a sound return strategy but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was concerned that he may try to overdo it. With Scott Brooks and Sam Presti knowing they need home court advantage in the worst way this season, I can’t see them discouraging Westbrook from an early return if he pushes for it.
This will likely send Reggie Jackson owners that viewed him as a stop-gap solution into a tizzy, but that’s not how I view him and many around the league look at Jackson as a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate. I had him all the way up at No. 53 in yesterday’s final Bruski 150 and that would certainly go down with this news a little bit, but he’s ranked that high because of his staying power as the team’s sixth man.
The only wild card to me was whether or not Jeremy Lamb could steal significant portions of Jackson’s backup shooting guard minutes. I think once scoring isn’t in short supply for OKC that Lamb’s defensive shortcomings will hold him back a bit, but in any scenario I’m not panicking over Jackson and I’d be looking to pick him up in a buy low deal right away.
If I was reviewing the B150 ranks I’d probably end up seeing a 10 rank drop for Jackson, and Serge Ibaka would also have a slight downtick since he was slated to vie for No. 2 scorer honors with Westy out.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY
The Rockets found their diamond in the rough last year, and we found that same diamond over the summer after Patrick Beverley showed out late last year and cemented his status as one of our favorite sleepers. A closer examination of his numbers, including a review of his college marks, confirmed that he’s an explosive, versatile producer that to date has forced Kevin McHale to keep him on the court.
The last Bruski 150 moved Beverley up 3-5 rounds higher than any analyst I’ve seen at No. 43 in 8-cat leagues, and that was before Chandler Parsons broke news that Beverley was going to start tonight. Now we don’t know how permanent this is and Jeremy Lin isn’t going to go away, and furthermore I already had Beverley pegged for 26 mpg on the season. As I said in a quick update to the B150, owners can feel free to move him up 5-10 ranks over my extremely aggressive ranking if they want to stand shoulder to shoulder with me. Then again, you can also just leave him where he’s at and give him some cushion for an unexpected dip from his projected numbers. Or you could rank him where everybody else has him and he’s still a must-add player with this news. Everybody wins!
This really all boils down to Beverley’s defense and the fact that he offers so much in terms of an all-around game. He can score, hit threes, rebound, pass, steal, block the ball a little bit and hit free throws at a high rate. He gets the best of it playing in Houston’s up-tempo attack and he can be productive amidst a talented group of scorer/shooters. I mentioned that if anything were to ever happen to Lin I have little doubt he could vault himself into the top 15-30 plays in 8-cat.